Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the UK today for a four-day visit of bilateral engagements as well as multilateral discussions as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson received Modi at the Heathrow airport here.
Johnson said he was “excited” about the growing India-UK bilateral trade and that the visit will help build on “huge economic advantages”. “..thanks to our shared history, we have a living bridge between us… and now we want to build on the incredible tech sector where both India and the UK are making giant strides together,” Johnson said in a statement.
Modi is set for a packed day of official engagements today, starting with his bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street.
The two leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest, including separatism, cross-border terrorism, visas and immigration.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the return of illegal immigrants, which had expired in 2014, will be officially renewed to take into account biometric and other developments in the field, along with a range of nearly a dozen MoUs across different sectors.
Modi will then head to the Science Museum in London to visit the ‘5000 Years of Science and Innovation’ exhibition where he will interact with Indian-origin and other scientists and innovators based in the UK.
The event, hosted by Prince Charles, will include the launch of a new Ayurvedic Centre of Excellence, aimed at creating a first-of-its-kind global network for evidence-based research on yoga and Ayurveda.
A brief stop to garland the Basaveshwara statue — which Modi had inaugurated during his last visit to the UK in 2015 — on the banks of the river Thames will then be followed by his second meeting with May at an event hosted by the British prime minister at the Francis Crick Institute.
After an interaction with Indian-origin scientists working on cancer research, malaria and other tropical diseases, both leaders will initiate the India-UK CEOs Forum.
Modi is then scheduled for a private audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace before the ‘Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath’ diaspora event, to be telecast live from the iconic Central Hall Westminster in London today.
The event, billed as the centrepiece of the ‘Living Bridge’ theme of the India-UK bilateral visit, will involve Modi addressing questions from across the world which have already been received via social media.
At the end of the live telecast, he will join Heads of Government from 52 other Commonwealth countries at a dinner hosted by the British prime minister as a formal welcome to CHOGM.
This will be followed by the executive session of the heads in London tomorrow before they head to Windsor for the CHOGM retreat, where the world leaders will interact on an informal basis.
This will conclude Modi’s UK visit after which he will leave for India.
According to official estimates, the India-UK bilateral trade stands at USD 13 billion, with the UK among the largest G20 investors into India. Modi’s visit will have a particular focus on the India-UK technological partnership as well as an enhanced role in the Commonwealth.
“India’s engagement is absolutely brilliant… there is a recognition that the Commonwealth offers a great opportunity for India and within that opportunity lies an opportunity for the rest of the Commonwealth,” says Lord Marland, chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC).
An Indian prime minister will attend the Commonwealth summit, which is held every two years, after a hiatus of nearly a decade, having last attended the 2009 CHOGM in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Indian government has said that Modi’s attendance at the summit this year symbolises the country’s wider efforts to step up its role across global forums. This stepped-up engagement is likely to take the form of increased activity within the Commonwealth, including greater resources and manpower as well as financial contributions.